From an interview at the New York Public Library, Sept. 16, 2008
In some sense, I still consider myself a communist . Why?
The conflict, which is presented to us by the media and so on, as the main conflict—between tolerant democratic openness and fundamentalism—this conflict, with which we are bombarded, is in some sense a false conflict. Something is missing in the equation. I think that both poles, here caught into each other, are part of the same self-propelling movement. What is missing is the left. And I here I follow Walter Benjamin who said that (accepting the designation of fundamentalism as fascism) that every fascism is a sign of a failed revolution. It’s easy to mock—"Ho, ho, ho. The left is over; it died"—Yes. That’s why we have what we have today.
Second thing, the next question. Maybe liberal capitalism works. I’m the first to admit that, let’s be frank… There was no society in entire human history where such a large number of people lived such relatively comfortable, safe, and free lives as they did in Western Europe in the last fifty, sixty years. But I see dark spots, dangers on the horizon. And now I come to the crucial question—to put it in these bombastic, old Marxist terms. Are there antagonisms visible, which we will not be able to solve, with the means of global capitalism as we have it today? I think there are.
(A) Ecology. I know the market works wonders and so on, but I claim... the risks are too high. (B) Biogenetics. Even Fukuyama, as we know, he changed his position. He admits now that the biogenetic prospect ruins his notion of the end of history. (C) Then we have the problem of intellectual property. I claim intellectual property is a notion which, in the long term, will not be able to include it into private property. There is something in intellectual property which is, as it were, in its nature communist. It resists private property.
And (D) the last point, new walls everywhere, new forms of apartheid, and so on and so on. It is as if ironically the truth of globalization is not just that Berlin Wall fell. Berlin Wall fell, but now we have new walls all around. And again, I don’t have any naïveté here, I am not saying oh, there will be a new Leninist Party. No, that story is definitely over, I agree with you. Why communism? Because (a), all these problems that I indicated, ecology, intellectual property, and so on, are problems of commons, of something which is the shared substance of our life. And some—in ecology, it’s clear, some kind of new form of collective activity, but I totally agree with you, nothing to do with Communist Party, state, or whatever, that story’s over.
We’ll have to be inventive.
If not, if the system as it is will go on and on and on, then I think something will be going on which I fear very much. What in some of my books I called a “soft revolution.” We are not even aware of how, slowly, things are already regressing. At the level of ethical standards, even. For example, do you agree with this? When friends tell me, “Why such a fuss about Guantanamo, torturing, but isn’t it clear that in China they torture infinitely more?” I say, “Absolutely,” I am not a hypocrite here. But what matters to me is surface appearances. What worries me is that twenty, thirty years ago, if somebody were to advocate publicly torture, he or she would have been dismissed as an idiot. Like you don’t even have to argue. It would have been the same as to argue about rape. I would be very worried if I we re to live in a society where one would have to argue all the time that one shouldn’t rape women, how should I put it, no?And it’s not only the fact that we talk about torture in this way and numerous other facts, point toward something which I find a little bit worrisome... The problem is how “tolerance” overlaps with new forms of oppression, paradoxically, with new forms of censorships and so on and so on. So I find that, although apparently we don’t live in dynamic times in the sense of big struggles, sooner or later we will have somehow to confront the problem, which was at the same time the basic problem of communism and the problem basically also of ’68. Let’s not forget: ’68 was also a radical questioning of the existing global system.